In a happy place

Masoom Minawala, India’s first fashion trend-setter, donned the hat of an influencer long before the birth of Instagram.
Minawala is the first Indian influencer to walk Paris Fashion Week in 2021
Minawala is the first Indian influencer to walk Paris Fashion Week in 2021

Striking it big as an influencer may seem like it’s money for old rope; social media offers instant fame that some equate to a mere stroke of luck. But it is only after the camera lenses shutter down, the ring lights are hung back on the walls, and the PR packages returned, that a different picture emerges of what it takes to be an influencer. And it takes a lot.

Masoom Minawala, 30, who currently lives in Dubai, is a social media star who broke new grounds in content creation over a decade ago. Known for changing the lives of smaller Indian brands with her endorsement, her journey from a curious teen to being a global influencer and entrepreneur has been inspiring for many. Now, in her first book, She’ll Never Make It (Juggernaut) that launched recently, she chronicles her journey to the top.

“All through my life I’ve felt like I’m not good enough, that my job is not good enough, people don’t respect what I do. So the loudest voice in my head has asked what have you done to deserve writing a book. But the reason I wanted to write it is because I have made unconventional choices, personally and professionally. And I felt like everyone who’s on the brink of making such choices would like to know my story,” she says.

The first step

Minawala donned the hat of an influencer long before the birth of Instagram. During her college days, she interned at a fashion company and was tasked to research bloggers. This led her on to discover fashion blogging. She spent one entire night looking up what was being done worldwide and created a fashion blog of her own, a phenomenon that was almost unheard of in India back then.

The camera and tripod gifted by her grandfather she put to good use for her blog. She took her own photos. Such was the traction of her blog that she was immediately pulled into the world. “It was love at first sight. It was an infatuation, like your first crush in school who you cannot stop thinking about like all night. Blogging has taught me so much,” she says.

Minawala wearing Cavalli at Milan Fashion Week  2024
Minawala wearing Cavalli at Milan Fashion Week 2024

The obstacles

Minawala managed to create a consumer base that trusted her. If she suggested her followers buy something in her blog, they would buy it. Minawala leveraged her popularity during Covid-19 when smaller fashion businesses were on the brink of collapse; she promoted them on her Instagram page to her 1.3 million followers. A silver lining for these smaller ventures, they experienced ‘The Masoom Magic’. Their sales boomed.

Minawala, however, struggled when she started her own fashion e-commerce business. She did not lack a rock-solid pitch or in strong brand collaborations but the fact of being a woman, and a woman talking about finances, proved at the time to be a challenge. “I felt I was not dealt the best cards because I was a woman. Big investors would ask if any male member of the family would handle my finances. It made me feel I didn’t have what men were assumed to have. I felt like I had to go out of my way to adopt those kinds of skills. Some of my male friends give wrong advice on finances with so much confidence! I had to tell some of them that ‘I love your advice but I’m going to make my own financial decisions’. I had to do this proactively to make sure my assertion registers in a society that is so conditioned to be male dominant,” she says.

Moving forward also meant more questions — if she was going to work only until she gets married or stop once she becomes a mother. “There’s something I talk about in the book, and it’s one of my favourite lines. ‘Your gender is your strength. Believe it’. I think the mind shift needs to begin with us,” she says.

Highs and lows

From amassing a global following to walking the Paris Fashion Week — the first Indian influencer to walk PFW in 2021— and promoting Indian designers, Minawala says success did not happen overnight. “It was actually a long journey. I would say I made a series of bad decisions but I also trusted my instincts that probably got me where I needed to be,” she says.

Chronicling her journey for the book, the social media star says she was able to look back at her life from a macro perspective. “Writing this book required me to actually dig into memories that were conveniently blocked away. It was painful but it made me reflect and learn from all those memories. Having said that, if something hadn’t gone a certain way, maybe I wouldn’t be here now. And I’m quite happy about where I am today,” she says.

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The New Indian Express
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